Category Archives: Reflections

Sorry: Sugar Coated Non-Consent

I wrote before over on my personal blog, Dreaming Aloud about how saying sorry was epidemic for women… and was a major feminist issue.

There’s a big buzz about a new Pantene ad in the US which calls attention to how the apology is too often used by women as a crutch and a way to downplay their power. Time magazine and Forbes are writing about it. And it does seem to be a trait which defines women, rather than men.

And I’m not just talking about sorry when you bump into someone. But sorry if they bump into you and spill your drink down you.

It’s madness. A cultural epidemic amongst women. And we do it unconsciously all the time.

“Women know they have to be likable to get ahead. Apologizing is one way to make yourself more accessible and less threatening,” says Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl. “Apologizing is one way of being deemed more likable.”  Sorry is simply another way of downplaying our power, of softening what we do, to seem nice.

(Read the full article here.)

The Happy Womb

Reading another woman’s take on why she’s giving up saying sorry (for things that she’s not actually sorry for), I suddenly saw the root of it.

I had previously thought it was sorry I take up space.

But actually it goes deeper – it’s sorry… but no.

It’s all about consent.

And mama do we know what a can of worms THAT is for women.

Women… for a very long time have not been allowed to, not safe to, say no.

Our consent has not been our own to give.

And so we have found ways to get around it. To soften it. Sweeten it.

Sorry is the sugar that helps the medicine of consent go down.

Sorry, but no.

Because no by itself is just too dangerous, too inflammatory, to much of a sign of a woman in her power who needs to be taken down a peg or two. Or shown who’s boss.

So next time you say yes… when you mean no.

Next time you say sorry. When you mean no.

How about just say no?

Reclaiming the Sacred Feminine

Today’s guest post is from our first Womancraft Publishing author, Nicole Schwab, whose book The Heart of the Labyrinth launches today. It has been superbly received by many world-changers and global thought-leaders, including…

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You can get your sample copy here… this will automatically enter you into a giveaway to win one of 2 paperback or 5 e-book editions as well as giving you an EXCLUSIVE 10% discount if you buy direct from us! Entries close 12am November 12th.

 The Heart of the Labyrinth_cover_front_72

Amidst the complexity and beauty, chaos and agony of our present time, I believe we are being called to step into wholeness and live to our full potential.

This is a time when playing small is no longer acceptable. Not only for us as individuals, but also collectively, as a society. And for me, this means we urgently need to reclaim the sacred feminine within our hearts, bodies and minds – that part of us, which we may have unwillingly buried because it was not valued by the world we grew up in. The wild voice calling our name from within the unexplored caverns of our soul.

Through my journey I have come to understand how deeply most of us have been conditioned to view everything female and feminine as being worth less than their male or masculine counterpart. This doesn’t apply only to the fact of being a woman, but also to our inner feminine qualities, our intuition and empathy, our ability to connect with all of life, to be permanently in touch with the wisdom flowing through our bodies. Somehow, we have adopted the belief – consciously or not – that being and feeling are not quite as important as rational thinking, action and control.

The tragedy is that we have severed ourselves not only from our own bodies, but also from the larger body of the planet, an intimate extension of who and what we are. And in this disembodied state, we find ourselves stripped of our inner power and wisdom. Like Maya, the main protagonist of The Heart of the Labyrinth, we are left with nothing but a question and an inexplicable longing:

“What would it be like to experience a profound connection with life, with the Earth, with each other? It was hard to even imagine. I had been raised to denigrate anything that was not of the intellect, to dismiss any alleged source of knowledge that lay beyond reason and analysis. Had I missed an essential part of what it meant to be human? A painful longing started to well up within me, and I suddenly felt immense grief for the loss of something I couldn’t fully grasp yet, a loss I seemed to have unknowingly inflicted upon myself.”

The wise woman who guides her on her journey confirms:

“Yes, Maya, you lost your Mother in the deepest sense. …you were torn away from the Pachamama, [the Mother Earth], from that within you which knows. The world you grew up in taught you to suppress Her until you could no longer hear Her voice. This is why you are in so much pain. A pain that your body has been holding for years, begging you to listen. To listen and to remember that She is still here, waiting for you to notice Her again.”

Many of us are starting to feel this pain. In a million different ways, our bodies are slowly waking up from the slumber of apathy and denial. The pain is becoming stronger every day, urging us to surrender to the transformation, remember who we are, and rekindle the embers of the sacred feminine fire.

“Reclaiming the feminine. It is about reclaiming our intuition, the voice that speaks in the dark. About reconnecting with the one who reveals herself in the moonlight, in the whispers of dead leaves crackling under our feet. She, the impermanent One, shining in the eyes of a newborn child and in the creases of an old man’s hands. She, the force of change. Powerful beyond measure. Forever untamed. We must accept her in the fullness of her glory, fierce and gentle, soft and wild. Only thus will we be showered with the grace of Her presence. And to do that, we must start by remembering that we are also made of flesh and bone, that we have the capacity to know by feeling, to know through this amazing body of ours.”

This is our journey as much as it is Maya’s. It is the path leading us back to wholeness, to healing for ourselves and for our planet.

This is my invitation to all of us. This is my plea.

And that all it will take, is for us to(4)

Nicole SchwabNicole Schwab is an author and social entrepreneur, co-founder of the Forum of Young Global Leaders, and EDGE Certified – a global scheme certifying organizations for closing the gender gap in the workplace.

Her first book, The Heart of the Labyrinth, from Womancraft Publishing, gives voice to her engagement on behalf of a world that values and honors the feminine principle and is rooted in our connection to the Earth as a living being.

 

 

 

 

Strong Like the Water

Today’s post from Jackie Singer sent shivers of soul recognition down my spine… I hope it does for you too.

What is an empowered woman like?

I keep returning to this question and wondering. What is the nature of feminine power? Is it different from masculine power? Do we have any models?

A year and a half ago I went to a Women and Earth Retreat, at Pistyll Rhaeadr in Powys. The long weekend was run by Annie Davey and Hilary Kneale at a campsite next to a magnificent waterfall.

waterfallPhoto by Zane Licite

At that time, as a mother of two small children, trying to keep my creative practices alive, and keep some money coming into the family coffers, I was feeling more than a wee bit weary, and yet I felt such a strong drive to make waves in the world. I travelled with this question: how can I step more fully into my power? It was the element of water that spoke to me in reply.

On the first bright, clear morning, we walked up the river valley to a mountain lake, and spent time sitting quietly by its shore. After a while, I bent low to the water, and noticed a tiny sound. Droplets of water were rolling from the soft moss into the lake. As I listened to their delicate music, I marvelled at how these sweet droplets were made of the same stuff that filled the great lake, and which had, over millennia, carved the entire valley. I was put in mind of the daily tasks of mothering, which in themselves are so small, yet which add up to something great. ‘Take heart’, the droplets seemed to say. ‘Each sandwich made, each sock hung up to dry, each goodnight kiss is a droplet that partakes of the great lake of love, which has huge power.’ This put me in mind of Mother Theresa’s advice that we should not pursue “great deeds” but rather “small deeds with great love.”

Later on that day, we chose the spots on the land where we would be alone for the next twenty-four hours. My place was sheltered by a sycamore tree, right by a stream. All day and night, the stream sang to me. I couldn’t see where the source of this flow was, it just endlessly poured by. I often sang along, and a little ditty emerged:

“From deep within, your blessings flow. You are the spring, you are the flow.”

In a world where I am regularly looking for affirmation from outside (a good pay packet, an award for achievement, preferably both), this was a beautiful reminder to look within for both affirmation and inspiration.

Within the last hour of our solo time, the sky grew overcast, and it started to rain. I was glad to pack up my sleeping bag, and head for shelter, warmth, food and company.

By the time I woke up early the next morning, it had been raining for 15 hours. As I wandered from the tent towards the shower block in my anorack, I became aware of a roaring sound. Looking up, I was stunned by the sight of the waterfall in full flow. What had been a graceful, white, maidenly fall of water when we had arrived, was now a thunderous, red Mumma in full power. I abandoned any thoughts of showering or breakfast, and headed straight for the waterfall. “YOU WANT TO SEE POWER?” she yelled, “I’LL SHOW YOU POWER!”

waterfall2Photo by Zane Licite

Here was charge enough to pound rock, and carry away trees: a vivid demonstration of what happens when millions of those little drops of rain from upstream run together. I kept a wary distance, but got soaked anyway. And a new song started forming in me . . .

Mother you call us home,

And all our journeys are as one,

And when we flow together,

Then we are strong.

We are strong like the water,

And our power is the flow.

Every sister, mother, daughter,

Come on and let your passion grow.

For the water knows no stopping,

And the water knows no pain,

So bring your burden to the water,

And be free again.

I’ve spent more than a year pondering the teachings from this retreat. I went with a question about power, and came home with an answer that was all about nourishment upstream. As a woman, especially a mother, it’s easy to run dry. Yet those little drops of love – a sandwich here, a kind word there – fill us up again, ready to flow, effortlessly. To be really powerful, we need really good nourishment upstream. And we are even more powerful, when individual tributaries meet.

Starting a monthly women’s circle last January has given me a tangible sense of what magic can be unlocked when women make a commitment to collaborate, celebrate and nourish each other. This is far from the Patriarchal idea of power, in which for me to be lifted up, someone else has to be subjugated. No, this is what the American activist / author / ritual-worker Starhawk defined as “power with” rather than “power over”. Individually, we each have our cycles of giving and needing to receive. If we carry on giving, we burn out. But by leading collectively, we take our turns to serve, and be served, as the need arises. In this way we flow together. We are strong like the water. And, as the water has been showing us abundantly over the past three months in the UK, that is very powerful indeed.

***

If you want to explore more about women and power check out Lucy’s series

1A power-full series for women who are ready to stop playing small and step into their power.

Written from the heart – these posts address:

  • why women struggle with power,
  • the dark side of women’s power,
  • how women keep other women down,
  • how to step into your own authentic power.

Read the series here…

 Today’s guest post author…

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Jackie Singer  is a writer, workshop leader, and independent celebrant, living in Oxford with her husband and two young girls.  She increasingly works with women and girls, exploring rites of passage and the archetypes of the Deep Feminine.  Jackie is author of Birthrites: Rituals and Celebrations for the Childbearing Years, and a regular contributor to Juno magazine.  Visit her blog at http://jackiesinger.wordpress.com.

Memory Box

Loretta joined us at the East Cork Red Tent in June and spoke incredibly movingly about a poem she was writing. A poem about memory and forgiveness, about the line of pain and healing which passes down from mother to daughter, and its location in our wombs. I immediately asked her if I could see it for The Happy Womb, and am so honoured that she has allowed me to share it with you here as a guest post.

Memory Box

I am kneeling in my Grandmother’s kitchen
Slippery smells of iron and blood
Hang
Clotting in the air
Wearing my childbirth apron,
I gently unfurl my wounded inheritance
Poultice applications and salves of love
and forgiveness
Ready to apply.

I unstitch my foot soles, two flapping footprints
Examining the roads and trails these
Sentient beings have taken
Each labyrinth a path and player
In my identity.

I pop my corneas and holding each up to the light,
I peer through these misted lenses
These look outs which have captured all that myself
And my grandmothers have seen, watched and
Looked away from.

I scrub my tongue, lengthways and widthways,
Scouring at the sounds, roars and attempts to be heard
Embedded on it
All that we have spoken and hushed and cried and howled
I slice my belly open and reaching in
I touch my womb, pulsating and piping hot
In my cradling hands
Our womb, which has drawn down life and death
In dark bogs and air conditioned rooms
I run warm water through it, better examining the
Cemented imprints of coiled foetuses and smudged
Out souls, I cry for my grandmothers
For their children and mine.

I am resolute in my demand
That the pain stops here
I pray for healing in
The cleaning of this
Old memory Box.

**************

lorettaLoretta Kennedy is a freelance writer and advocate who lives in Cork with her partner and children.

Her poetry has appeared in magazines such as ‘The Stinging Fly’, ‘The Burning Bush’, ‘The Cuirt Journal’
and the poetry anthology ‘Jacobs Ladder’ (Six Gallery Press).Her parenting articles have appeared
in magazines such as ‘Juno’ and ‘Easy Parenting’.

She has worked as a stage manager, a magazine
editor, a nurse and an advocate and now primarily as a mother to three wild girls. She is currently
training as a birth doula.

The Feminine Breath

“The feminine is the in-breath, the internal tide of intuition and inspiration that shapes and influences the out-breath, or masculine form. When balanced, the feminine and masculine result in creative abundance, and the forms that arise from this balance are both productive and sustainable.”

Wild Feminine: Finding Power, Spirit and Joy in the Female Body – Tami Lynn Kent

Feminine Breath

Reading this passage, I realised that I live in the out-breath.

I often suffer with migraines. And panic attacks. Both of which are brought on by my living in the out-breath, losing connection with my body, with the feminine. I am not the only one – the whole world, pretty much, is living in the out-breath, living dis-embodied lives from our heads. We are filling our days with endless doing. Filling our world with carbon dioxide, the out-breath.

This quotation is a reminder to me, to you, to all of us, to breathe in.

May teachers of different disciplines from yoga to childbirth preparation to meditation have used breathing as an aid to practicing mindfulness. But without exception, they focused on the out-breath.

When we focus on the in-breath we have to stop. It takes us inwards by default. So for the next few breaths, just focus on the sensation of the in-breath. Follow it into your body. Follow it down. Can you feel the softness of your body opening up as the air passes in. The yielding, opening, vulnerable, strong body which is yours. How far can you follow it? Do you feel your breasts rise? Does it go into your belly. Can you take that feeling down into your womb, your vagina?

What if, every time you felt tired, every time you felt disconnected, you brought yourself back to your feminine breath. No bells or candles or altars needed. No darkened rooms. Just the instantly available path of your feminine breath, taking you inwards. Inspiring you to being once more.

My mother’s shame is what I wear as a veil…

My mother’s shame is what I wear as a veil.

It is my modesty.

Handed down, from mother to daughter, generation upon generation, laundered and press within an inch of its silken life. It is my birthright, my dowry. I peer through its gauze and think gauze should be kept for hospital settings, to mop up blood and pus, gangrene and weeping sores.

But it has been taken out, out from the institution of illness and out into the world, carrying within it pestilence and plague upon my mother’s head as she bears her female body with shame, with disgust and anger and misery and disappointment – they ooze from her body with her blood and her sweat and tears that no real woman should have, they pour from her body in the birth fluids of her babies, the tears of her frustration, the sweat of her pain, they pour and pour, covered by the veil, too disgusting to be seen, too shameful and horrific to be seen by everyday eyes.

Of course you did not know, how could you? The veil’s purpose is to keep things nice, and pretty and safe, and most of all, hidden. The veil is the social smile. It hushes the wear’s voice to a murmur. And so what pours behind the gauze becomes her own, her own private suffering, her own personal hell. She is kept in a purdah of shame, behind the veil, not knowing that every woman wears the veil, the veil of her mother’s mother, and she suffers behind it too. Beneath it her libido fires in her youth, dances in delight, then learns to lie still and have headaches and womb aches, and heart aches become a distant memory, as fibre by fibre, the veil falls down upon them too. And they become the white noise of her existence, as little a part of her as the wind in the trees on a distant mountain top. She forgets that all this is hers, was hers. Disembodied, anonymous behind the veil, she floats ghostlike, dead amongst the living with only her shame to keep her warm, her silence to be her friend.

She holds her shames close to her heart. The loves she shouldn’t have felt, the hatred that burned like a fire for the woman that bore her, the child that she could not keep, the husband that she could not live with, the son that she cannot reach though her soul calls out his name in her sleep, the love that she longs for, the art that sits like birds in the top of the tallest tree that she cannot tempt down with the small crumbs from her desolate soul.

The betrayals from friends, who knew just the words to cut her like a knife, the truths from the tongue of her firstborn that she could not swallow and jammed in her throat like fish bones, sharp and malevolent. The body that was not slim enough, brown enough, smooth enough, that did not want to open at the right time and place to suit the clocks of others. And the dreams which haunt her nights, of lovers lost, her dead father, trains and falling from cliffs sex and death and pattern and colour all mixed up into one grotesque charade, this too is hers, and her shame.

The shame that she, in the end, could never be what everybody else wanted, that she couldn’t be kind enough, pretty enough, chaste enough, kinky enough, calm enough, wild enough, to please all of the people all of the time. And so as she walks, beneath the veil you hear her bones rattle, her flesh wobble, her tears, streams of tears like a faucet which cannot be turned off, and the blood, the blood it flows, then drips, then stops, but the tears keep on flowing.

Beneath the veil she learns to avert her eyes, and her heart. The look, of coyness, respect, disdain, distraction, disengagement. All and nothing.

She learns to float through this world, which is not for her, because she is not of it. Cloistered behind a veil of shame.

Can she over throw it? Can she find the courage of the women of the Taliban whose burkahs haunted my teenage dreams. Can she see that beyond the safety of fear, the habits of generations lies a land called freedom? Where women dance bare-breasted in the sun, where the law is made by dreamers from the red tent, where love is the currency, and joy flows through our veins. She can smell it, seeping through her veil, it is intoxicating, but the only hands to remove her veil can be her own, when she decides to wed life, to say “I do”.

Will you?

*Please note the mother I refer to here is metaphorical, not my own flesh and blood mother.

Reflected beauty

The other day I saw a woman across the room. And my first thought was – she looks like she’d be a great friend, she’s just my sort of woman. Beautiful patterned artsy clothes, an open face, radiating her own unique beauty, she looks happy in her own skin.

Then my brain caught up. That woman, that beautiful woman was me, reflected in the bedroom mirror as I walked by. What a moment it was! Genuinely seeing yourself as objectively beautiful – free from ego or doubt or intentional self esteem raising. Just seeing. And knowing.

Me and my daughters

And it was in such contrast to another mirror moment three years earlier.

In a restaurant with our children, I caught sight of myself in the mirror across the room – and felt physical disgust as I dissected my faults – my eyes filled with tears, I felt sorry for my husband to be not only married to such a hideous creature, but embarrassed for him that he had to be out in public with me. Then I caught sight of my daughter sitting opposite. Angel faced, the epitome of beauty. I scanned back to my own face, and noticed what I am always told. She looks just like me. So similar its scary. The eyes, the nose, the mouth, the shape of her face. I know her beauty to the depths of my heart. It is truth. So how, if we looked so similar, could she be beauty incarnate, and me a hag? I knew then that I really was dealing with a problem of perception and not reality.

I have had an ongoing hate-hate relationship with my own beauty. A general disgust of my reflection in a mirror, photographs of me, my thighs and belly as they sit quietly… I have always found my physical self unacceptable. Its so cliched. So dull. So pointless. And yet so real, omnipresent in my mind and life. Beauty shouldn’t matter… but it does. With beauty come value, love, acceptance – of self and others.

I know where its roots for me lie. In not fitting in. My dad not thinking I was beautiful. My mother and step mother showing dismay at their post baby bodies and carving them back into shape with diets and harsh exercise routines. A friend’s mother who thought her daughter, aged nine, was fat and should diet. Friend’s comments, magazines, TV… the list goes on. The poison is everywhere. And I swallowed it down like a good girl. Until I hated every part of my beautiful self.

I found myself looking back over our wedding photos, and oh how beautiful I was. But acceptably beautiful. The slimmest I have ever been. Hair dyed back to its natural color. But I remember just how uncomfortable I was in my skin. I showed the photos to my children. And to my shame asked if they thought I was beautiful then, they said yes. And if I was beautiful now, not really, was their response. They make references to me being big, being fat. You know where they learnt that from. Because that is how I have felt.

But recently I have realised, that being heavier I feel fully myself. Full of me. in my own skin. I was never much good at being a teen or in my twenties. When life was about weight and surface beauty. I never cared enough about it to sacrifice myself on the altar of beauty and fashion. I always wanted to be me. But me was apparently unacceptable.

But now, when I look in the mirror, I do not carve myself into pieces of unacceptability. I see the curves and the flesh and the hair and the skin, the wholeness of my beauty. My spirit incarnate. And I shake my booty, and laugh with pleasure and joy at this body that I get to call mine. And I revel in the flesh of my children. Flesh of my flesh. And I tell them that I think they are beautiful. Strong. Kind. Loving. Smart. Creative.

And I tell them that I am too. I show them my work, my actions, my heart. And when I look at myself in the mirror, I share my beauty too.

I am commited to this admiring and celebrating of our beauty, inside and out. And this is why…

“When I was growing up there wasn’t one woman in my environment who I heard saying something positive about her body. Everything I heard was negative, negative, negative. I accept my body. I accept how I am and make the best of what I am given. Children orientate towards examples. That’s why I talk solely positive about my body in front of my [daughter. I say things like ‘Hey, look at my strong arms!’ Or I shake my butt and say ‘Look at my fabulous butt!’ I do that deliberately,”

Kate Winslet, in a new interview with German magazine Brigitte.

And this powerful post by Amanda at Offbeat Mama

“I don’t want my girls to be children who are perfect and then, when they start to feel like women, they remember how I thought of myself as ugly and so they will be ugly too. They will get older and their breasts will lose their shape and they will hate their bodies, because that’s what women do. That’s what mommy did. I want them to become women who remember me modeling impossible beauty. Modeling beauty in the face of a mean world, a scary world, a world where we don’t know what to make of ourselves.”

And finally this powerful performance by Kate Makkai: Now for sale: Daughters $10,000 each

“When my daughter asks me if she’s pretty, I’ll say no! The word pretty is unworthy of everything you will be. And no child of mine will be contained in five letters. You will be pretty intelligent, pretty creative, pretty amazing, but you will never be merely pretty.”

How do you celebrate your beauty? And what has your journey been?